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HomemilastwordThe Productivity Panic

The Productivity Panic

“This space that has been granted to us rushes by so speedily, and so swiftly that all save a very few find life at an end just when they are getting ready to live,”wrote Lucius Seneca, the Roman philosopher, in the first
century AD.1

Time management was even a problem way back then.

We spend our days being busy, answering a never ending stream of emails, crowding our diaries with appointments and skimming through social media.

Tennis player Bernard Tomic, in quitting I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, confessed that he thought he’d be “super happy, camping for the first time, being around new people” and yet half the time he was “just depressed”.

“I’ve never really had time to think about my thoughts,” he said. “I’ve always had people around, my mobile phone…everything was so fast-paced. Everything’s slowed down in the last few days. I don’t want to spend half my time depressed here, you know? Thinking about how I played last year and where I should be,” he continued.

He didn’t want to be alone… with his ‘thoughts’.

We all live full lives, full of interruptions and noise but how do we feel about being alone with our own thoughts? What would happen if you just stop: turn off your devices, mute your phone, close your To Do list and just ‘sit’, alone, for 15 minutes?

I had a dozen friends over for a dinner party. The conversation drifted into how crazy busy life was, then one of our group suggested we disperse into our own space around the room and just sit, alone with our thoughts.

It seemed like an odd and slightly dismantling suggestion but we split. Most of my friends found the exercise uncomfortable and somewhat challenging. They didn’t like just sitting and half ended up trying to distract others or looking at their phones.

Are there times when we just sit with our own thoughts, with no distractions?

One moment for me, is that time before sleep, when the phone is off, the room is quiet, and I’m lying on my pillow, in the dark, with thoughts rushing through my head.

Another, is when I’m in the chaos of busyness, when I’m on deadline and need to get something done yesterday. When I’m under the most intense pressure, I find the best way to regroup is to switch off and
‘stop’. I close my eyes for a few minutes and allow the noise to dissipate. Then, I get back to work sans the anxiety and deadline stress.

Today, we live in productivity panic.

“We feel obliged to respond to the pressure of time by making ourselves as efficient as possible – even when doing so fails to bring the promised relief from stress,”wrote author Oliver Burkeman.2

It’s important, as eye care professionals, to take time out between appointments, to refresh and regroup. Give yourself time to focus so that you can do the things you need to do.

You can fit more appointments into your day or, fit more of you into each appointment.

1. On the Shortness of Life. Seneca. Penguin. 2004
2. Why time management is ruining our lives. The Guardian. Oliver Burkeman. 2016